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Prep Boys Basketball: Bulldogs grab a share of MRL title
Oak Hills clinches at least tie for MRL championship
OAK HILLS • Serrano boys basketball coach Brian Carrasquillo said his team made it easy for Oak Hills Tuesday.
The rest of the Bulldogs’ journey to claiming a share of the Mojave River League title was anything but.
Oak Hills beat the visiting D’backs 66-56 to earn a share of the league title for the second straight year. They can clinch the outright title with a win Thursday against Hesperia, which is still winless in MRL play.
In a tough MRL, few saw this coming. The Bulldogs (16-5, 8-1 MRL) were not thought of as the team to beat, but they managed to pull together throughout the season with a mix of tough defense and depth. Oak Hills has been without leading scorer A.J. Walton due to injury the last four games, but is 4-0 in those contests.
“(Our team) had pressure since the beginning of the year,” first-year Bulldogs coach Shaun Mora said. “They knew they were underdogs from the beginning and they knew that this was somewhat of a redemption time. They came in this morning fired up. They had shootaround fired up. They just had this attitude of, We really want this today. ”
Nine different players scored for the Bulldogs. William Uelese led the way with 19 points and added 10 rebounds, five assists and block.
“We knew if we won tonight, we’d be MRL champions so we said let’s finish this,” Uelese said. “Let’s do this.”
Having just beaten the D’backs Jan. 25, Uelese said Oak Hills was able identify and shutdown a familiar Serrano (8-16, 6-4 MRL) offense.
“They run the same play over and over and we were able to read it this time and play tough defense instead of laying off,” he said.
Oak Hills’ Kenneth Mitchell added 18 points, Chase Gibson grabbed nine rebounds and Avery Bracken had five rebounds and three assists for the Bulldogs.
Oak Hills never trailed after the tying the game at 5-5 late in the first quarter. They took an 11-9 lead into the second quarter and went on a 18-8 run to enter halftime up 29-17.
Carrasquillo said that was when the D’backs began to fall apart.
“(We didn’t have) the passion for the game,” Carrasquillo said. “We didn’t have any in the first half. Defensively we were getting beat off the dribble. We were giving up offensive rebounds.
“We made it easy for them.”
He also questioned how much Oak Hills’ defensive performance was affected by the referees, who called just 11 fouls on the Bulldogs.
“It’s going to happen in a league championship game that the refs are going to let you play,” Carrasquillo said. “I thought there was some excessive grabbing and pulling of jerseys going on that made it a little harder for us to come off screens. If you want to call that defense, OK. But we didn’t step up to the challenge and play through it. You have to be mentally tough to fight through that stuff when the refs aren’t going to call it.”
The Bulldogs pushed their lead to 18 with 3:32 left in the fourth quarter before Serrano started chipping away. Serrano committed seven fouls in the final 1:23 of the game in a effort to get back into it and managed to cut Oak Hills’ lead to 63-56 with less than 40 seconds left, but it was too late.
Serrano is second in the MRL with a half-game lead over Apple Valley. The D’backs host Hesperia on Feb. 5.
Thomas 18, McDonough 18, Glove 12, Alcala 4, Rader 2, Dobrick 2.
OAK HILLS (66)
Uelese 19, Mitchell 18, Gibson 9, Bracken 7, Barton 6, Richmond 2, Scott 2, Jones 2, Mastandrea 1.
Serrano 9 8 15 24 — 56
Oak Hills 11 18 12 25 — 66
3-point field goals — Serrano 4 (McDonough 2, Thomas 2); Oak Hills 2 (Mitchell).
Matthew Peters can be reached at email@example.com or (760) 955-5365.